“As we move away from Slieve Muck, I can feel my feet treading more lightly and my heart rate start to slow - my anxiety about school flowing into the earth.”
DARA McANULTY, DIARY OF A NATURALIST
The Half Term is upon us, life has returned to a new state of normal and the break from school gives us all a chance to reconnect again.
Reconnect with one another. Disconnect with screen time. Reconnect with the world around us. Reconnect with nature as Autumn is unfolding in all it's glory.
Autumn has arrived early this year. The long hot summer, followed by a sudden plummet in temperature (anyone else suddenly gone from barefoot to multiple socks layers and heavy tread boots within a day?) has brought us a riot of colour to bask in.
The hedgerows are bursting with fruits, seeds and berries and conifer trees are laden with cones which are beautiful to collect and use in creative art and play. They remind me of incredible pangolins with overlapping scales, nature eternally unrivalled in the beauty of its creations.
We have created Woodland orientated colouring-in packs, designed to spur on little imaginations, with foraging quests and 'Adventure Finds' for little minds eager to seek, discover and learn about - with and from - the natural world around them.
Download your own Woodland Adventure packs here
Before we get started, some Fun Facts about Trees and Leaves:
Silver Birch - This tree has beautiful silvery bark and fluterry leaves and can sometimes be called the "Queen of the forest'. It was one of the first trees to start growing in Britain around 10,000 yrs ago.
Yew - This dark mysterious tree has been the subject of myths and legends for centuries. In ancient times, people planted yews where they would be buried. Some yews in churchyards can be over 1000 years old. Most parts of this tree are extremely poisonous to humans and animals.
Sweet Chestnut - These trees produce large edible nuts that can be roasted. They have been long associated with winter festivals and were once seen as sources of magic.
English Oak / Pedunculate Oak - This tree has a rich history featuring in many myths and legends and can also be known as the 'King of the forest'. A single oak tree can live for hundreds of years. Oaks are home to many different types of insects, which in turn attract birds. They also provide food for squirrels and other small mammals.
Sycamore - In the Autumn the sycamore tree produces thousands of spinning, winges fruits called 'keys'. The wings act like helicopter blades and spin the keys through the air so that they land some distance from the tree.
So, we recommend you all wrap up warm (we have a few suggestions on that front for the littles, ahem) and prepare for days spent outside as a family, crunching through the fallen leaves to the merry tune of the birds in the trees. Feel the power of mighty oaks around you, build dens from fallen branches, make fat balls to hang in the garden and once you've done these warm up activities, it's time to become an Autumnal Horticulturalist.
The ground is covered in acorns and conkers. So why not start to gather them up and grow your own tree!
Preparation for planting conkers and acorns:
1. Put in a container of water and disregard the ones that float as they have dried out.
2. Using only the conkers that sink, plant them about 2cm deep, in individual pots of soil or compost between now and the end of November.
3. Water well and place in a sheltered spot outside.
4. Keep an eye on your little conker as it starts and repot into a larger pot if it is looking a little cramped.
5. Watch for the first green shoots to appear in Spring.
“One tree, an oak, growing below the pavement had fallen to expose its root ball, so tight and tangled that there couldn’t possibly have been any more space for life... The ripped up human surfaced spoke of people first, nature last.
I collected a handful of acorns from the branches and put each one into my pocket, like small pieces of hope.”
DARA McANULTY, DIARY OF A NATURALIST
On a side note and not looking to form a bookclub - unless the hands of time would stand still just once a week in which case I'll happily commit - if you are looking for a good read for yourself and your littles, I cannot recommend Dara McAnulty 'Diary of a Naturalist' highly enough.
Written in diary form by 14 year Dara, who's passion for nature is a great channel for his autism and allows him to separate what really matters in life after bullies have set on him at school for being 'different'. Following a year in his life from Spring equinox, to Spring equinox, this book is written with an unusual balance of poignant simplicity and highly informed understanding of nature in its many different guises. At 16, he is the youngest ever to win literary award the Wainwright Prize and that alone is something to be celebrated!
In a world dominated by screen time; social media, televisions and video games, Dara provides a true inspiration to us all to open our eyes and ears to the minute details around us in the natural world.
One for both yourself and your little ones to enjoy and discuss together. Beautiful and uplifting 🙌
Of dandelions "Spring on a stem and sunshine brought to the forest floor"
DARA McANULTY, DIARY OF A YOUNG NATURALIST